A Week with Stephen M. Stahl – Masterclass of Psychopharmacology

A Week with Stephen M. Stahl – Masterclass of Psychopharmacology

Stephen M. Stahl, one of the most important psychiatrists and pharmacologists in the world, will be in Rome, at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum – European University of Rome for a full day of the psychopharmacology conference. The event is a major scientific event during which some of the most current topics, both basic and clinical research, in the field of psychopharmacology and clinical practice will be discussed. World-renowned psychopharmacologists and psychiatrists, through a critical review of their fields of investigation, will offer the opportunity for participants to take a look at the future of research. The total duration of the course is 7 hours and will release ECM 4.9. Application Fee € 80. There are 200 seats available. You need to fill in the online forum and registration form by clicking here and accessing the appropriate platform.

 

 

VIII International Bioethics Conference in Bogotá

VIII International Bioethics Conference in Bogotá

By Santiago Marcet – 

The Director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, Dr. Alberto García Gómez, attended the VII International Congress of Bioethics held by the Universidad Militar Nueva Granada in Bogotá, Colombia, during the 3rd, 4th and 5th of October.

 

In his lecture titled “Neurobioethics, Placing the Human Being at the Center of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Law” Dr. García reviewed some of the most prominent topics in the field of neurotechnology, and as the title suggests, he was able to explore the ways in which the human being ought to remain the gravitational center of such a rapidly evolving reality.

The first issue Dr. García addressed was the need to re-formulate the ways in which we think about our brain. What is the relation between mind and brain? Despite the common claims that both are one and the same thing, we are still unable to locate the human sense of identity and self within any of the 28 substructures of the brain. The intangibility of human singularity invites us to think of the human being not only as an material entity, but also as a transcendent one: by means of rationality, we are able to place our inclinations beyond the contingencies of our material body, interact with others in society and foment virtue.

 

This perception of the human being introduced Dr. García’s next discussion, namely the bioethics of neuroscience. As he insisted, a position open to progress and change must belong to all bioethicists, as long as the overarching anthropological view is not lost. Moral judgement, he stated, must focus on two elements when talking about neuroscientific ends: the means by which they are achieved and their intention. Drawing on this distinction, Dr. García talked about the essential differences between therapy and enhancement, which lead him to address Transhumanism in a neutrally critical way: the disposition to endow the human being with a higher degree of dignity by means of biological enhancement can prove to be a slippery slope, and common good must prevail over individual dispositions. Many questions surround this topic: does all scientific advance constitute progress? Will enhanced human capabilities increase the already existing gap between the rich and the poor? Will the transhuman being constitute a new paradigm that will make the concept of human singularity blur? These and many other issues should always be addressed bearing the idea of human dignity in mind.

 

Reversing the actors of his previous discussion, Dr. García talked about the neuroscience of ethics. Or in other words, the ways in which neuroscience can help us understand the intricacies of our moral thought. He explained the problems that arise from the implantation of recent theories that deny the existence of human free will. If there is indeed a measurable relation between certain brain structures and human behavior, if human choices are nothing more than the end of a chain of causality that is merely material, he states, the concepts of responsibility (in moral terms) and imputability (in legal terms) lose all meaning.

 

Dr. García finished his lecture reminding us that human dignity is not derived from the complexity of our biological structures nor from our mental functions and faculties. Rather, it is found in the metaphysical reality that goes along the fact of being human: transcendence.

Master in Global Bioethics Online

Master in Global Bioethics Online

The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights in collaboration with The University of Anáhuac (Faculty of Bioethics), the Holy Spirit College, and the Ateneo Regina Apostolorum is lannching the NEW Master in Global Bioethics online.

Objectives & Outcomes:

  • Training future university professors, health care professionals, biomed researchers, social and political agents with high academic knowledge and skills in bioethics.
  • Providing an integral formation in the field of global bioethics, allowing participants to develop their professional activity, both in the private and public sphere, with social responsibility and grounded in person-center approach.

Addressed to people interested in:

  • Promoting human dignity, human rights and duties in the field of life sciences and medicine as well as in social, legal and political environments
  • Studying and researching about the biomedical, philosophical, social and legal aspects of the contemporary important and cutting-edge bioethical dilemmas
  • Developing capacity for interdisciplinary, international and cross-cultural dialogue to explore new solutions for the preservation of health and the improvement of individual well-being and social welfare.

Program:

  • Concept of Human Being in Bioethics and Global Bioethics
  • Trends and Currents of Thought in Bioethics
  • Research Techniques and Databases
  • Ethical Fundamentals of Bioethics
  • Clinical and Bioethical Aspects at the Beginning of Life
  • Bioethics, Sexuality and Human Reproduction
  • Bioethical and Clinical Aspects at the End of Life
  • Bioethics and Medical Act
  • Bioethics and Health Management/Health Care Policies
  • Bioethics and Biolaw
  • Global Bioethics
  • Global Bioethics and International Human Rights: The Human Right to Health
  • Emerging Technologies and Global Bioethics: Neuro-Nano-Info Technologies
  • Cross-cultural Dialogue in Global Bioethics
  • Public Health Ethics
  • Bioethics and Social Problems
  • Bioethics and Environment
  • Research Methodology in Bioethics

For further infromation and application contact: Marinés Girault, maria.girault@anahuac.mx

Start: 5 November 2018

Academic Load: 1370 hours of student work

Duration: Two years studying part-time

Hours: Available all day

Scholarships: Available

Certifications:

UAM: Master Certificate*

UNESCO Chair: Diploma

HSC: 30 US Credits

APRA: 60 ECTS

*Validity of Studies Recognition issued by the Secretary of Public Education by means of Presidential Decree, published in the Official Journal of the Federation in November 26, 1982. SEP Approval in Process
Masterclass in Neurobioethics “Neurobioethics and Transhumanism” Theology’s perspective on human head transplantation

Masterclass in Neurobioethics “Neurobioethics and Transhumanism” Theology’s perspective on human head transplantation

by Giulia Bovassi –

 

How should theology interpret transhumanism? What can be said about the man’s relation to God, his spiritual striving, and his self-understanding? These are just some of the questions that emerged during the meeting on Friday April 20 during the speeches held by professors Giorgia Salatiello and Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio.

«A spiritual revolution» and a pure «technical» action are among the most highlighted points during latest session of the Masterclass in Neurobioethics, “Neurobioethics and Transhumanism.”, Dr. Sergio Canavero emphasized the possibility of a head transplantation of human beings, a possibility often met with precaution.

GdN coordinator Fr. Alberto Carrara, discussed how many thinkers disregard a specific vision about human nature and consequently ethical action. He insisted that human acts cannot be isolated from a relationship with freedom, responsibility and dignity, which are decisive elements for every medical action. The doctor should join, assemble, restore the functioning between the living body and the deceased donor’s body. The doctor could, erroneously, glimpse a mere “producing” in what he is doing, reducing the meeting between doctor and patient to an approach between an operator and an object. In the body transplantation case, one’s original vocation is to take care for the other. Every ill person directs his fears and hopes to the other person’s competence, letting the doctor enter his lives in a concrete act of trust, both professional and human.

The two interventions, “Theological Anthropology Questions about the Recent Scenarios Raised by Transhumanism” by Prof. Giorgia Salatiello (Pontifical Gregorian University) and “The Creational Destination of Man to Immortality: Identity and Resurrection” by Prof. Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio (Pontifical Urbaniana University), extended the consideration to the central points of the Trans and Posthumanist movement, and theology, in some concepts of common interest (for example immortality, life, meaning of death, of freedom, of corporeality, of the person and the task entrusted to him when God is perceived in his origins), promoting an exchange as constructive as possible. In this sense, during the first intervention some themes, particularly suggested throughout the Masterclass’s opening lectures, re-emerged, confirming the fact that, using Prof. Salatiello’s words, «transhumanism constitutes a major challenge for theological anthropology»: to embrace a vision of the human being as a creature implies that our free action is not arbitrariness (without constraints, bare of foundations); greater dependence on God implies greater freedom because God places the creature free (in the Christian conception freedom is constitutively oriented to the good). The concept of  “person” is a notion that contains in itself the relationship with God, the uniqueness of the individual and, again, the free response to the loving call.

Transhumanist language often indicates a fluid, evolutionary view of the human being, together with the lack of distinction between him and artifacts or between man and animal. The individual (a term more commonly used precisely because it can underline the ontological poverty in the definition of person) is drastically reduced to the dualistic vision of himself.

Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio further analyzed the theological comparison in the light of eschatology, linking the substantiality of the human being as a relational being in his relationship with God and in the human being as integrated whole, whose soul informs the matter and whose identity is substantially shaped by the spiritual element. The body historically characterizes the person in the union through the spiritual trait, which remains when everything else changes. Facing the attempt of some doctrines to dissolve the unity of the human being through the subtraction of the soul, Prof. Del Gaudio spoke of «pneumatic realism», using Pope Benedict XVI’s expression, in response to thorny questions, such as the doubts about the identity of the resurrected bodies, if separated from the soul. In the resurrection, the soul will reshape the matter in that same form that «virtually preserves in itself», our corporeity will be transfigured and renewed on the model of Christ. The encounter with Christ marks a new life and following of Christ reveals the vocation to immortality, a call to eternal life. The Catholic Church affirms that there is a resurrection: our body preserves its identity in it and the human Ego subsists and survives, despite the dissolution of the body. Through Christ’s victory over death, which becomes a liberation and fulfillment. Here death, suffering, and pain finds new meaning and eternal life perpetuates the call to live with Christ, a communion that makes all other relationships more complete and alive.

At the conclusion of the round-table seminar, there was a debate on the ideas of the “Letter Placuit Deo to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which explicit reference is made to two tendencies now widely spread, or from which certain school of thought seem to draw inspiration: neo-Pelagianism and neo-Gnosticism. The first consists in man’s effort to achieve salvation by himself, observable in the way he uses (or becomes a servant of) the technique, then robotics, technologies, etc; the second seeks a subjective salvation through the liberation from the body. Transhumanism contains tendencies toward both of these two approaches, «two temptations of the human being».

The question emerges: «Can the man who can dispose of everything also dispose of himself as he pleases?». This is an urgent question that must be answered to protect the fundamental rights of man so that he will be guarded, not dominated, by his neighbors and his works.

 

 

“Psychotherapies compared with the Head Transplantation idea”  Round-table seminar, 23 February 2018

“Psychotherapies compared with the Head Transplantation idea” Round-table seminar, 23 February 2018

By Giulia Bovassi –

 

Abstract

Refined surgical skills and human dexterity are fully manifest in such complex operations as organ transplantations, a difficult intervention and great therapeutic resource. How should we deal with the possibility of a head (or body) transplantation, keeping the patient-person in the center? What risks originate from psychological sciences? Thanks to their professionalism and assisted by well-known cases in literature, several experts helped to shed light, from the psychotherapy’s point of view, on its plausible consequences.

The round-table seminar, part of the Masterclass in Neurobioethics, hosted three major psychotherapy schools and five experts in the field to undertake an interactive experience for mutual exchange and in-depth training on the Masterclass main topic, the so-called “head transplantion” on the human being. The meeting, coordinated by Prof. Alberto Carrara and introduced by Dr. Maria Luisa Pulito, psychiatrist, neurobioethicist and former GdN member, joined the psychological perspectives essential to correctly examine the above-mentioned surgical project. The patient’s psychological rejection, after the transplantation of visible parts of the body, is not a hypothetical deduction, but an objective datum the scientific community must consider. These patients express discomfort towards their new organ in various ways: as highlighted by Dr. Pulito, they feel their integrity undermined and consequently need to assimilate the deconstructed image of themselves again; they are sad for the lack of that particular lost reference of their body; they are animated by anguish, paranoia, sense of persecution and extraneousness towards that novelty applied to their figure; all of this contributes to the expression of that psychological rejection, decisive for that patient called to reassess his own history. Precisely about this story, Dr. Pulito, using the formula coined by P. Ricoeur, «synthesis of the heterogeneous», shows how much the narrative experience and temporality, which determine the “specific” of each human being, are dense synthesis that invests us with its features in the union between the temporal and historical permanence of the personal identity, defined largely by the relational interaction. A balance between permeance and change. In the end, making precise reference to the potential patient, result of a hypothetical fulfillment of the “body-to-head transplantation”, Dr. Pulito asks herself: «Will the impression left in the brain circuit of the original body be felt in the new one? Which synthesis of the heterogeneous will be possible through the head transplantation?».

Dr. Massimo Cotroneo, hypnosis and Ericksonian psychotherapy’s specialist, supports the structuring of hypothetical predictions, starting from already illustrated cases of difficult cohabitation between the patient and his new transplanted organ or limb. Face or hand transplantation experiences, for example, have been subject matter of the verification of the psychological and psychosocial responses of the individuals, who, although gaining evident improvements in their quality of life, had to face many difficulties in the representative identity and in the systemic-relational implications. Despite the increased functional benefits, technically healthy patients developed mental-psychological pathologies that were difficult to ignore and probably already nourished when they joined the intervention. The expert questioned the veracity of the awareness to the consent of a head transplantation, a choice without any return possibility. Here is the Ericksonian approach’s contribution, where the person resides at the center, both in the constitutive globality and in the uniqueness that characterizes it, namely considering her, every time, different from her equals. The effort to consider the set of implications that could arise before and after the intervention, allows practices such as hypnosis to work, thanks to the access to special states of consciousness, «on the deep aspects of consciousness and psycho-corporeal matter, sometimes masked by non-functional choices». The added value of the hypnotic session lies in the access to highly conflictual and complex places, often autonomously unsearchable, that would lead the patient after the intervention to highly uncomfortable conditions. This tool is equally strategic when doubts arise regarding the authenticity of the consent: the transplantation idea could induce confusion or obsessive feelings dictated by the minimum effective experience with similar imaginative representation of the surgery. The integration between subjective experience and the experimentation of an arduous and, sometimes, alienating path, as the weight of the head transplantation, is a contact that can be experienced through hypnosis and it would be, without a doubt, advantageous to support the human aid to the patient.

 The director of the S.I.S.P.I., the International School of Specialization on the Imaginative Procedure, Dr. Alberto Passerini, proposeed, together with his colleague Dr. Manuela De Palma, psychologist and psychotherapist, hypothetical considerations on the implications related to the head transplantation, founded on what has already been learned in the Imaginative Experience. Dr. De Palma highlighted how much a transplantation, which is considered “routine” nowadays, already breaks into the recipient’s psychic life, arousing adjustment, assimilation and accommodation’s trends. This transversal impact induces different symptoms, including anxiety, stress, depression, which cause on the patient a crisis due to disturbances in his own body image, self-representation, identity, in addition to the already mentioned obstacles in the perception of his new self-belonging to the transplanted organ (psychological rejection). The body image, as our own body’s psychic representation, lasts despite the change (we modify the image of our body even during the pain and the suffering; yet still the identity, the biographical answer we give to ourselves, remains within the alterations). The relationship between the Corporeal-Imaginary Ego and the Psychic Ego is profoundly changed because of the dissociation between bodily and psychic images (we can understand it if we examine the psychosis cases). The muddled mental adjustment, within the transplantations, involves two phases: first, when the familiar piece has been removed (sorrow), as deprivation of a belonging; second, which is characterized by an oppressive sense of guilt caused by possessing something unduly (because it is property of someone else, who is deceased).

It’s here that Dr. Passerini’s relation, entitled “The inhabited body”, begins, opening with the concept of “accorporation”, recalled at the end of her speech by Dr. De Palma; “accorporation” is the union between integration and incorporation, using Dr. Passerini’s words, a proper junction of a sentient being; it’s that precise indissoluble meeting point between interiority and exteriority, because he is not only appointed to a body but he is his own body (this is glaring in psychosomatic patients, who falsify, in their pathology, every dualism because they use the body to stage inner conflicts). The patient, through the imaginative procedure, pours into the somatization the traumatic psychic experience, as evidence of the Self Relational Ego, related to himself, to the others and to the environment. Holding firmly the information explained until now by the speakers, how could one consider “a healthy patient” a patient whose body no longer has any factor in common with his history? The problem of identity, right from the first lesson of the Masterclass, appeared central in the debate inherent the attempts of the Turinese neurosurgeon. Even under the articulations of the psychological sciences, it’s metaphorically assimilated to a sort of Commonwealth where the members vary, but the substantiality, completely incorporated in the relationship between the parts, is rooted. The fear is to return to a patient, in order to make him feel healthy through a body different from his own, an existence strongly torn in psychotic conditions, where the bodily condensations recombine the identity as sum of history, temporality, biography, otherness and corporeality. It could be wondered if it would be acceptable a proportion of risks / benefits where, on a scale, weighs the well-founded fear of a “delirium of de-personalization”, due to the perception of a split, foreign, recombined body?

According to some mindsets, the human being could be reduced to cerebral activity and content or, by other means, to the information inscribed in his genes, from which what so many call “genomania” was born. These are penetrating linguistic twists, descriptive of a specific type of man, which the experts Dr. Chiara D’Urbano and Dr. Pasquale Ionata, psychologists and psychotherapists, scatter thanks to the psychodynamic experience. Dr. D’Urbano sums up the dense and rich picture until now analyzed both in the round-table seminar, that has seen so many professionals participating, and from the opening of the Masterclass itself. Dr. D’Urbano offered a reflection whose principle is exquisitely anthropological and philosophical, referring to the first introductory lesson on the Transhumanist and Posthumanist movements. It is useful to remember the principles since they themselves demonstrate the ambivalence on which a great part of contemporary society is culturally nourished: the exaltation of the body and of aesthetics until its empowerment and, at the same time, the mortification of corporeity in favor of the cerebral matter alone as summary of the human being himself. The patterns of attachment, the synergy between mind-body and the brain, and relationality, are examples of how life, since its origins, is a path of adherence and adjustment in view of an inexhaustible construction of the identity and of our self-understanding. “Mentalizing”, or “keeping the mind in mind”, indicates exactly the amount of literature that a good reader, as we are with ourselves, must accomplish by looking at himself in his own entirety.

In a head transplantation situation is it plausible to suppose disintegrative states of personality? Asking this question, Prof. Ionata addressed the participants at the end of his report on the exchange between the three brains of man: the cerebral one (whose highest expression is creativity), the cardiac one (whose highest expressions are compassion and love), the enteric one (whose highest expression is courage). These three brains communicate with each other through the vagus nerve, at the point that it has been shown that the greatest quantity of informative material performs movements from the bottom to the top, and not vice versa. The importance of not looking at the person as an assembly of parts and components, as if they were roommates each having its own privacy, refines the critical gaze, so that it cannot be unprepared in cases such as those presented by the professor, for example those following cardiac transplantations. The intrapersonal relational mind is the ability to make the unconscious conscious; to grasp the wisdom that flows from the dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious mind. The activation between the three brains restores consistency to our somatic relationship with the mind, which is very often paraphrased with “psychic abstraction”, while it is actually the unity of an integrated whole. If we consider the dynamism unveiled by enteric or cardiac dreams, how do we guarantee a permanence, a stability to the relationship, in a body transplanted on a cerebral brain which is extraneous to the other two new correspondents brains? A chaotic nothingness is the more plausible and realistic scenario, aggravated by a nonexistent memory, in a patient who would find himself impaired in his ability to respond to himself.

 Such a dense experiential content demands in turn for a weighted metabolization, in order that a new piece can be added to the interdisciplinary mosaic that the Masterclass is proposing; but it is equally true -as suggested by Dr. Viviana Kasam- which immediately urges a curiosity about the limit of human action, stimulated precisely by its relapses. These are the questions that Dr. Kasam, president of BrainForum Italy, extended to all those who, faced with the rapid advance of technology, perceive the duty to dwell on this dynamism with a critical gaze. The launch of the second edition of “Cinema & Brain“, which this year will take place in Milan, through the initiative “Neurofiction. A plausible future?“, is functional for this purpose, in so far as there will be a debate, on the occasion of the screening of the film “Frankenstein Jr.” (1974), between the coordinator of the GdN, Alberto Carrara, and the neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero, which will summarize the main theme of our Masterclass: “Head transplantation: the hunt for immortality“. Recalling Prof. Carrara’s initial thought on the posthumanist inspired scenes presented at the recent Gucci’s runway show – cinematography, art, fashion are channels for solicitations and a socio-cultural effect quite in line with the more widespread common feeling. Therefore, through the provocations launched by the Milanese event, we will find further pressure to ask ourselves where the limit is and when the reliability of our awareness is put into crisis by the power that a decision, such as the consent to the head transplantation. The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights is carrying out extensive research on consent, so that the network woven by a man’s decisional freedom can be said to be protected in times of vulnerability.